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What's So "Special" About Managua? (Flight Frequency and Price)

What's So "Special" About Managua? (Flight Frequency and Price)

Old May 24, 22, 8:35 am
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What's So "Special" About Managua? (Flight Frequency and Price)

About 10% of this is venting since I had an award reservation cancelled due to AA postponing their resumption of MIA-MGA, but this is more of a long time brewing question.

I've been wanting to visit Granada, Ometepe, and León for a long time, so I've monitored flights for probably the past 7-8 years. Managua (other than sometimes Roatán) is always the most expensive Central American airport to fly into by far. Whenever there are sales and SAP is $280 RT from Denver, MGA is $600 or more. I can normally get to PTY or LIR for less than $350 RT on multiple airlines, but not MGA.

Now in a "post"-Covid world, all of the flights on UA, DL, and AA have resumed to Central America. That is, except flights to MGA where no American carriers are flying there except for Spirit (and no thank you). The only non-stop flight there is on AV from MIA.

So my question is really, what gives? According to the Oracle, Wikipedia, the last time it had compiled results for all of the CA airports, MGA was the 5th busiest, busier than SAP, LIR, and BZE, so I don't think it's necessarily just "demand". And if it's busier than those airports, why are the flights to the others so much cheaper? And it's not like the demand isn't coming from the U.S., where the most traveled routes, again, according to Wikipedia, are MIA and IAH.

I mean, just looking at avianca.com:

Anybody have an idea what makes Managua so "special"?
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Old May 24, 22, 2:54 pm
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Maybe read the news? - it is a political and economic basket case.
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Old May 24, 22, 2:58 pm
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
Maybe read the news? - it is a political and economic basket case.
And Honduras isn't? That's kind of my point.

Last edited by JayhawkCO; May 24, 22 at 3:29 pm
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Old May 25, 22, 9:32 am
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Maybe there is more demand for flights to MGA and the other options?
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Old May 25, 22, 9:54 am
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Originally Posted by cheltzel View Post
Maybe there is more demand for flights to MGA and the other options?
I would think if that were the case, then UA and AA would have resumed their flights already. There are multiple flights to SAP, but none to MGA ex-USA for American carriers (other than Spirit).
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Old May 25, 22, 3:18 pm
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Aren't Nicaragua's COVID protocols the issue? It requires airlines to send an advance passenger manifest with each person's PCR test result to the civil aviation authority and to the Ministry of Health? It also requires PCR tests for airline crew, even if they're never getting off the plane and are turning right around and going back where they came from. I'm all for vigilance during the pandemic, but those are cumbersome requirements for an airline, and the Big US three have said, no, we don't need to come back under these conditions. So, without competition on US-Nicaragua routes, AV is free to raise its fares. The tourism industry is pleading with the Ortega administration to relax requirements. Danny and Rosey won't.

What's laughable about this is that Nicaragua has lagged WAY behind the rest of Central America in combatting COVID among its own population. It will barely acknowledge that COVID is even an issue. It's fascinating to me that on those CDC maps that rank countries by COVID risk, Nicaragua is always gray. Nobody knows. The issue here is not whether you agree with the CDC ranking approach or not. It's that Nicaragua doesn't release this information.

Last edited by SJOGuy; May 25, 22 at 3:26 pm
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Old May 25, 22, 3:38 pm
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I realize we're not supposed to debate pandemic protocols at FT, except in designated threads. I want to make it clear I'm not debating anything here. I believe this is what's behind AA, DL, and UA not being in any hurry to return to MGA.
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Old May 25, 22, 4:00 pm
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
Aren't Nicaragua's COVID protocols the issue? It requires airlines to send an advance passenger manifest with each person's PCR test result to the civil aviation authority and to the Ministry of Health? It also requires PCR tests for airline crew, even if they're never getting off the plane and are turning right around and going back where they came from. I'm all for vigilance during the pandemic, but those are cumbersome requirements for an airline, and the Big US three have said, no, we don't need to come back under these conditions. So, without competition on US-Nicaragua routes, AV is free to raise its fares. The tourism industry is pleading with the Ortega administration to relax requirements. Danny and Rosey won't.

What's laughable about this is that Nicaragua has lagged WAY behind the rest of Central America in combatting COVID among its own population. It will barely acknowledge that COVID is even an issue. It's fascinating to me that on those CDC maps that rank countries by COVID risk, Nicaragua is always gray. Nobody knows. The issue here is not whether you agree with the CDC ranking approach or not. It's that Nicaragua doesn't release this information.
Hmmm, that could very well be a good reason for the current situation. Of the countries I'll visit on this trip (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras), Nica is the only one I need to test for (well, other than the U.S. which is a whole separate matter) since I'm double vaxxed (and boosted) which prevents me from needing to test for Honduras. I wasn't aware of the requirements for flight crew, so thanks for that info.

That said, the fares have long been higher for MGA than any other airport in the region (for the past 8 years I've been looking), and even if you just look at the amount of airports historically (and currently) serving MGA, it's half as many as places like SAP or LIR despite higher passenger totals. It's just weird.
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Old May 25, 22, 10:06 pm
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I've also read that Managua is the only place you can get a COVID test.

Originally Posted by JayhawkCO View Post
That said, the fares have long been higher for MGA than any other airport in the region (for the past 8 years I've been looking)
That's true, and I don't know the answer to that one. I've never flown to Nicaragua from the US, only from elsewhere in Central America. That's not as easy as it used to be, but that's more AV dehubbing SJO and routing everything through SAL. I remember the days when each country had its own airline, and the flights hopscotched up and down the isthmus: PTY-SJO-MGA-SAL-GUA and back and forth. That was never efficient for several airlines to do that simultaneously.
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Old May 26, 22, 6:53 am
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
I've also read that Managua is the only place you can get a COVID test.



That's true, and I don't know the answer to that one. I've never flown to Nicaragua from the US, only from elsewhere in Central America. That's not as easy as it used to be, but that's more AV dehubbing SJO and routing everything through SAL. I remember the days when each country had its own airline, and the flights hopscotched up and down the isthmus: PTY-SJO-MGA-SAL-GUA and back and forth. That was never efficient for several airlines to do that simultaneously.
And now they charge an arm and a leg to make a quick flight intra-Central America too. SAL-MGA goes for $300 for a 55 minute flight. Granted, it's an 11-12 hour bus/shuttle ride that you avoid by paying that, but still exorbitant.
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Old May 27, 22, 5:35 am
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It's frustrating when you consider the fares you pay for such short distances. Recent history is littered with attempts to compete on these routes within Central America. The airlines couldn't survive, or, in some cases, never got off the ground. In 2013, a group of Costa Ricans announced plans to launch "Ticos Air." They were even going to fly from SJO to Asia and Europe! I remember thinking, show me you can fly to MGA first. They couldn't even do that.
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Old May 29, 22, 5:48 pm
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Are the land borders open? Of the dozen or so times I've been to Nica, all but one I flew to LIR and took a taxi (or bus) to the border. Much cheaper and if you're gonna hit San Juan Del Sur, Ometepe, and Granada, very easy. Only time I flew to MGA was when I had a connection to Big Corn Island.

Last edited by aroundtheworld76; May 29, 22 at 6:13 pm
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Old May 30, 22, 7:53 am
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Originally Posted by aroundtheworld76 View Post
Are the land borders open? Of the dozen or so times I've been to Nica, all but one I flew to LIR and took a taxi (or bus) to the border. Much cheaper and if you're gonna hit San Juan Del Sur, Ometepe, and Granada, very easy. Only time I flew to MGA was when I had a connection to Big Corn Island.
Yep. Land borders are open. Didn't originally want the 5 hour shuttle, but might have to.
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Old Jun 3, 22, 6:14 pm
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Its crazy expensive because its a visa free location for Cubans looking to travel north.
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